Carl Lee Perkins (April 9, 1932 – January 19, 1998) was an American rockabilly musician who recorded most notably at Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, beginning in 1954. His best known song is “Blue Suede Shoes”.
According to Charlie Daniels, “Carl Perkins’ songs personified the rockabilly era, and Carl Perkins’ sound personifies the rockabilly sound more so than anybody involved in it, because he never changed.” Perkins’ songs were recorded by artists (and friends) as influential as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Johnny Cash, which further cemented his place in the history of popular music. Paul McCartney even claimed that “if there were no Carl Perkins, there would be no Beatles.”
Called “the King of Rockabilly”, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll, the Rockabilly, and the Nashville Songwriters Halls of Fame; and was a Grammy Hall of Fame Award recipient.
“Blue Suede Shoes” is a rock and roll standard written and first recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955 and is considered one of the first rockabilly (rock and roll) records and incorporated elements of blues, country and pop music of the time. Perkins’ original version of the song was on the Cashbox Best Selling Singles list for 16 weeks, and spent 2 weeks in the No. 2 position. Elvis Presley performed his version of the song three different times on national television. It was also recorded by Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran among many others.
Johnny Cash planted the seed for the song in the fall of 1955, while Perkins, Cash, Elvis Presley, and other Louisiana Hayride acts toured throughout the South. Cash told Perkins of a black airman, C. V. White, whom he had met when serving in the military in Germany, who had referred to his military regulation airmens shoes as “blue suede shoes.” Cash suggested that Carl write a song about the shoes. Carl replied, “I don’t know anything about shoes. How can I write a song about shoes?”